Canton 911 Communication Center
Director: Dean McKimm
Communications is the key to most any successful endeavor. Nowhere is that more true than in the operations of a modern 911 communications center. Providing public safety communications generally take part in two ways. One part is the face to face communications of the safety service personnel on the street. Another, and more crucial to our dispatchers is the collecting and disbursement of that information to those responders on the street. As a dispatcher it is not enough just to receive information from a complainant. The dispatcher must be able to quickly gain control of the conversation by first calming and reassuring the caller. They must then solicit the useful information that they know will enable the responders to render the needed assistance. The telecommunicator (TC) will then enter that information into the record while in some cases simultaneously dispatching the resources they know will best be able to render aid. That in itself would be enough to challenge even the hardiest among us, but the dispatchers job does not stop there. As the call progresses they accept the responsibility to assist in helping the responding personnel with continued information, notifications, and doing whatever they can to keep our police and firemen safe as they help victims at the scene. The telecommunicator's job isn't done until the scene is cleared and the danger is truly past. Controlling the dispatching duties of any one emergency scene is more than most of us would like to handle. But the modern day TC must find a way to juggle multiple incidents with no control when a call comes in, how serious the call, how many, or what resources they will have available to meet the requirements of that call for service (CFS).
Today's media, at times, attempts to offer us a closer glimpse into the operations of a modern day 911 center, but the TC's professionalism and the critical role they play in providing public safety cannot truly be appreciated without a personal observation of their working environment while multiple emergencies are in play. This is especially impressive when you consider that the welfare of not just the victims, but the responders as well is dependent on everyone doing their part as a well orchestrated response to our citizen's pleas for assistance.
2012 CANTON COMMUNICATION CENTER
Recent changes affecting the Communication Center:
The Canton Communication Center is currently in the midst of a considerable and very exciting transition. For the first time in its history, the Communication Center is functioning as a department unto itself under the supervision of a newly appointed civilian Director, Dean McKimm. This is in contrast to its recent and past history when it functioned as a bureau of the Canton Police Department. While our duties and responsibilities remain the same, the supervisory structure now makes the Center much more an entity that is directly answerable to the Safety Director in the Mayors Administration. This is in keeping with our desire to develop a structure which is more effective in serving not just our citizenry, but also various City department such as Police, Fire, Sewer and Water departments to name a few.
Future Direction for the Communication Center:
2011 was also an historic year as it represented the first full year that the Canton Communication Center actually merged its Motorola radio system with the Stark County Sheriff’s office radio system. This was the culmination of a multi-year, multi-million dollar project which electronically merged these two agencies’ radio hardware. The result created a radio system capable of serving all police, fire and many other types of public service agencies in Stark County, regardless of the local political subdivision to which they belong. To be sure, growing pains, both practical and political, have materialized. However, without this significant and extremely successful merger, none of the accomplished progress nor the drive toward county-wide radio use/dispatching would be a possibility.
So, while I am happy to take the opportunity of this report to celebrate the accomplishments we have made to date, we need to recommit to working toward the system’s full utilization as soon as practical. This is a tremendously complicated affair. It seems that sometimes when the technical hurdles are overcome we expect the political concerns to follow suite and simply melt away. This is not the case for a variety of reasons, poor economic conditions being certainly among them. I remain confident, however, that we continue to make progress which will eventually result in a comprehensive communications solution reaching not only the four corners of Stark County, but possibly even beyond.
Communication Center Operational Responsibilities:
The communication center is staffed with one civilian Director, one administrative assistant, 15 Telecommuncators (TCs), and one “In-Training” TC. One of the largest struggles we have is maintaining qualified, trained personnel capable of dealing with the uniquely challenging tasks a TC is called upon to perform on a daily basis. I am proud to say that our current staff of TCs perform admirably under the considerable hardships placed on them by the nature of the position. Providing public safety is a multi-departmental responsibility with each department acting as a vital link in the chain that is necessary to protect our citizens’ property, assure their rights, and on some occasions even save their lives. Police, Fire, Communications, Street, etc. all play a roll.
We now dispatch for Louisville PD, East Canton PD, and Louisville Fire in addition to our Canton City agencies. The practice of outsourcing our dispatching service is fairly new, but we have been very successful thus far and are looking forward to expanding this service when and where possible. In addition, we currently provide radio resources to a number of Stark County public agencies. A few or the less obvious agencies currently using our state of the art 800 MHz radio system are Stark State College, SARTA, Canton Health and special events such as certain HOF activities.
A Word about Technology Utilized by the Communication Center:
As mentioned earlier our community is blessed to have a very sophisticated 800 Mhz, trunked, radio system by Motorola - the leading manufacturer in public safety radio. This radio system was made even stronger when we completed our literal merger with the Stark Co. Sheriff’s radio in 2010. At that time we became a 12 channel, 10 tower, simulcast system designed to serve the communication needs of the entire Stark County area. Many thanks should be given to Mayor Healy’s administration, the Stark County Commissioners, Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson, and Canton Administrative Fire personnel who worked very hard to achieve this goal.
The Canton Communication Center (CanCom) has five Motorola Elite Gold Dispatching consoles. Currently, we run our shifts with a minimum of four TCs at any given time. Each of these TCs have the responsibility to control their console containing up 23 radio channels and 33 incoming phone lines dedicated to Canton Police, Fire, Sewer, Street, Louisville Police, Louisville Fire, East Canton Police and Aultman Hospital. We also completed the replacement of our aging 911 telephone answering equipment in 2011. This new equipment allows all dispatch centers throughout the county to directly receive their land line 911 calls along with the updated GPS location data.
The Canton/Stark County-wide Radio System stand ready to support all Stark County first responder agencies as they migrate into new radio systems. It is our hope that some day, in the not too distant future, all of Starks first responder agencies and even some other local public service agencies, will operate off of this system. This will provide the citizens of Stark County with a first class, unified communication network designed with their highest level of safety in mind.
Dispatching by the Numbers – Calls for Service:
2011, like all years, proved to be very challenging for the Canton Communication Center. In addition to the changes and improvement mentioned earlier, our primary responsibility, dispatch, certainly remained a number one priority. In 2011, the Center dispatched 63,901 calls for service or CFS. It’s important to remember that several time that many phone calls were handled. What the numbers really mean is that after analysis and answering questions related to well over 100,000 phone calls, almost 64,000 CFS dispatches were required. A breakdown of a few of those CFS categories is as follows:
911 Hang-Ups-------------- 1,986
Threats of Suicide------------558
Taken together, these and several other CFS categories comprise the 64,000 dispatches we referenced above. It’s a great amount of work for our dispatchers, but also a job that they, more than anyone, know just how important it really is. After all, when it gets right down to it, every dispatch has the potential of being a life threatening emergency to somebody.
Director Dean McKimm
Canton Communication Center
City of Canton